I feel like I’ve been very much in step with the times in waiting to be established (or with someone who is established) and in a fulfilling relationship before marrying; the problem is, my fertility ran out before I could get it all together:
I actually think marriage has changed dramatically, which opened up the way for the possibility of imagining same-sex marriage. I actually think that marriage itself as an institution has evolved from one that was very utilitarian, very little about love, sex, companionship, and everything about transmission of property and production of goods, services and provision of human labor in reproduction. As long as marriage was defined in a very traditional way, you couldn’t imagine same-sex marriage, because marriage was about a utilitarian management of life tasks. Marriage began to change in such a way that we now think of marriage for heterosexuals as finding one’s soul mate, marrying one’s best friend, your partner in life, your other half. Once marriage has come to be seen as about what’s good for the self and what is a socio-emotional support system, then it could be imagined that the right person for you is the one you choose, disregarding other kinds of criterion including sex or genitals.
I think we fundamentally have made a shift in the meaning of marriage and we’re steering the course. Marriage will evermore come to be seen as something one works toward: one gets to a place in life where one has achieved enough to be married. You see that with the increasing age of marriage, which I imagine will continue to increase. This notion that marriage is something one achieves once you’re stable and earning a living, that’s relatively new. That will continue and even increase, the sense that marriage is an achieved status. I think that will be true for straight people and gay people.
I think that as we move to modern societies where people don’t actually need to be embedded in extended families with sharp divisions of labor in their daily economic lives that relationships in general are more voluntary. Even family relationships these days — whether or not you’re close to a sibling, all that depends on personal choice. Even with biological family these days, how close or distant we are is a personal choice based on the relationship quality. I don’t think we’re ever going to move back to intimate relationships that are not based on quality and free choice. We’ve moved far enough down the road in heterosexual relationships where women are no longer economically dependent on men. It’s possible for both people to support themselves without the relationship — being in the relationship is about improving the qualities of one’s personal life.